Shabby On The Go: À Vélo

Our longtime contributor, Erin Brown, is about to embark on a journey around the world, from Iceland to India. This summer she'll take us along on her adventure in a semi-monthly feature, Shabby On The Go.

In packing up my life and getting ready to leave on a great adventure (traveling from Iceland to India with many, many stops in between for the next six months), I've been ruminating on what I'll miss most about New York City. There are the museums and the galleries, my favorite sandwich shop and soul food joint, movies in Brooklyn Bridge park in the summer, the Staten Island Ferry--but the thing I will really miss the most is biking.

I've been biking in the city for five years now--commuting seven miles each morning from my home in Harlem down to the gallery district in Chelsea, taking Sunday spins in Central Park, or riding out to Brooklyn for the best pizza in town at Roberta's -- most of the time in a dress or skirt. While I used to be an anomaly--the girl in the bright red skirt and vintage fur coat cruising down the westside bike path with everyone else in their tush-padded spandex--I've noticed more and more ladies out in the bike lane in the last few seasons.

Chic cycling is back in a real way, with fashionistas being shot on their bikes by everyone from the Sartorialist to Bill Cunningham (the ultimate chic cyclist, no?), there's even an entire blog, Downtown From Behind, dedicated to the matter.

And who can blame them? Biking is a health-conscious, inexpensive and totally green way of getting around...good for the environment, your wallet and your calves! And because springtime is the perfect time to start biking and wearing your brights again, I've composed a little guide to biking in style, with some tips and tricks from a seasoned, skirt-wearing cyclist.

Get the right fit:

Whether you're riding a beach cruiser, a track bike, or anything in between, some dress and skirt styles work better than others.  The best skirts to ride in are fuller and a little longer, like Shabby Apple's Overboard or Tres Joile dresses. Straight skirts restrict movement, make it harder to get on and off without flashing everyone, and can catch on the back of your seat (and rip when you step down at a stop light!) and long skirts can get caught in your chain, unless you have a chain guard. Make sure too, that the sleeves of your dress will let you have your arms in front of you without stressing the dress.

Choose shoes that are flat, or have a low heel. Techincally you can ride a bike in any pair of shoes you can walk in, but it is a skill that requires practice. Start with something easy (and comfy) before you try biking in those Lady Gaga heels!

And, ladies, James Brown was right: Hot Pants--make you sure of yourself!  Leave the tush-padding for the triathletes, but throw on a sleek pair of bike shorts under that skirt and you'll have all the confidence in the world.  But just in case, here's a little video how-to on how to get on a bike without flashing your fancy undies, from a group of cyclistas here in NYC.

Don't Sweat It!

When I hear my gal pals talk about why they don't bike to work, the number one reason (after "I'm just too lazy") is that they don't want to get all sweaty before they get to work, or worse, all sweaty on their way to an event or date after work.  One of the best ways to ensure that you're not arriving to work soaked is to get a basket for your bike where you can put your purse, backpack or any other heavy items that will weigh you down or press against your skin.  How about this clip-on shopping bag, or this sleek basket from House of Talents? And take it easy—you don't have to make like Lance Armstrong on your way to work.  Enjoy the ride!

Play It Safe

One thing that is always in style is being safe.  Though helmets are not the most fashionable accessory, they're a necessary one.  Luckily, a few style-conscious cycling companies have come up with some fun helmets that make playing it safe feel more like playing dress up.  I adore these helmets from Nutcase

So there you have it!  Some basic tips for riding in style that I hope you'll put to use this spring.  I know I'll be taking every chance to get out on my bike before I leave in a few weeks, and with all the blooming trees and beautiful weather, New York is rewarding me for my efforts.



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